Tag Archives: open educational practices

24Apr/17

Opening up Open Pedagogy

https://blog.mahabali.me/blog/whyopen/what-is-open-pedagogy-yearofopen-hangout-april-24/

Many thanks to Maha Bali for organising tonight’s Open Pedagogy Hangout. Maha has curated a number of blog posts about open pedagogy and also started a Google doc to collect notes, links, etc: http://bit.ly/CurateOpenPed. Thanks to all who have blogged and shared their thoughts. I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate and looking forward to tonight’s conversation very much.

I’ve blogged recently about my understanding of open pedagogy and OEP (considered together and separately) and also about how I’ve defined OEP (inclusive of open pedagogy) in the course of my PhD research. As I’ve explored both the history and current practice of open education, I’ve found it useful to note two broad strands of definitions of OEP/open pedagogy: those focused on OER (and the 5Rs) and broader definitions. I’m re-reading some of this work in preparation for tonight’s hangout. In reading some of my notes on the earlier open education literature, I’ve been drawn to particular ideas and quotes — not complete, not comprehensive, but catching my interest today. I share them here. (Please note: not all of these are available open source, but I will be happy to share PDFs with you if you’d like them.)

Postscript: I’ve made two updates to this post, 3 hours after first publishing it. Firstly, I’ve added a link to the Open practices: briefing paper (Beetham, et al. 2012) — a key source with respect to OER and OEP, mistakenly omitted in my haste earlier. Secondly, the list shared here is a selection of work published between 1975 and 2012. I’ve omitted later references as I don’t wish to pre-empt current thinking about this topic by those participating in tonight’s discussion and/or blogging about the topic this week. For current thinking by all engaged in this discussion, please see Maha’s curated list of blog posts and the Google doc — links at the top of this post. With thanks, as always, to Myles Horton and Paulo Freire: “We make the road by walking“.

Open education, open learning, open pedagogy, OER, OEP…

Open learning is an imprecise phrase to which a range of meanings can be, and is, attached. It eludes definition. But as an inscription to be carried in procession on a banner, gathering adherents and enthusiasms, it has great potential. For its very imprecision enables it to accommodate many different ideas and aims. (MacKenzie, 1975 in Keegan, 1990)

Open education in America is a manifest part of the liberal politics and the reform rhetoric that helped define an era in our recent history. The open classroom approach “arrived” in this country in the late sixties. As methodology, we primarily imported it from England, known widely as the Leicestershire Model, or the Integrated Day, or simply the informal classroom. A series of articles in 1967 by Joseph Featherstone in The New Republic ably publicized the innovative British practices, and educators like Lillian Weber made notable efforts to analyze and adapt them to American settings. (Mai, 1978)

Part of the problem of definition stems from the careless, if evocative, use of the term open by educators and the popular press to describe the wide variety of educational innovations which proliferated at the same time as open education classrooms were being developed. (Noddings & Enright, 1983)

Definition of open learning: increased flexibility and user choice over all aspects of the learning process. (Lewis, 1992)

The approach of the authors is based on the pedagogy of dialogue of Paulo Freire. Its aim is to point out some indications to establish a digital inclusion that transcends utilitarian limits and a merely operational access to machines and programs. That is, an inclusion that is also social, cultural, and political. (Corney, 2006)

New literacy practices are aligned with an “open pedagogy” that embraces collaborative knowledge creation, participatory education models, experiential practices, mentoring, and apprenticeships. (Corney, 2006)

The expanding global collection of open educational resources… contribute to making education more accessible, especially where money for learning materials is scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. (Cape Town Open Declaration, 2007) www.capetowndeclaration.org

The historically more certain boundaries – where information and communications were controlled by universities – is being lost. Institutions are struggling to make sense of how to operate in this changed and permeable space. The mind sets and frameworks of references that we have used hitherto are no longer adequate. Many boundaries have blurred: virtual and physical localities, professional and social lives, formal and informal learning, knowledge consumption and production. (Armstrong & Franklin, 2008)

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another. (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robison, 2009)

Open pedagogy’ approaches involving collaborative, co-productive and more ‘equal’ roles between ‘teacher’ and ‘learner’ than hitherto implemented are both possible and made more effective by social networking technologies and social networking environments. (Cullen, Cullen, Hayward, & Maes, 2009)

While acknowledging the potential value of content, we contend, however, that it is the opening up of educational processes, which we are calling Open Pedagogy (OP) enabled by the Web 2.0 technologies that are set to play the more transformational role in the collaboration between students and lecturers… Even if the technological infrastructure exists to allow materials to be a button-click away, unless lecturers are willing to share their materials or pedagogy, the technological affordance will remain unrealised… the sharing of the pedagogical process, what we see as ‘open pedagogy’. (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray, 2009)

The concept of ‘open pedagogy’ (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray 2009) is in line with Conole’s definition of ‘open educational practices’ (OEP)… “the set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources. It also includes the contextual settings within which these practices occur”… The move to incorporate ‘practice’ in the definition signifies the acknowledgement that content disembedded from its context is difficult to adapt without some understanding of the pedagogical and epistemological assumptions underlying the creation of the resource. The latter are of particular import as different views on what is considered ‘worthwhile knowledge’ are likely to increase with the ready access to materials from different parts of the world. (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2010)

Open teaching is described as the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks. (Couros, 2010)

OEP are defined as practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers/ administrators of organisations, educational professionals and learners. (Andrade et al., 2011)

Open educational practices, in light of JISC’s case studies and the Capetown declaration, seem to encompass all of the following: production, management, use and reuse of open educational resources; Developing and applying open/public pedagogies in teaching practice; open learning and gaining access to open learning opportunities; practising open scholarship to encompass open access publication, open science and open research; open sharing of teaching ideas and know-how; and using open technologies (web-based platforms, applications and services) in an educational context. (Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A., 2012)

 References:

Andrade, A., Ehlers, U.-D., Caine, A., Carneiro, R., Conole, G., Kairamo, A.-K., … Holmberg, C. (2011). Beyond OER: Shifting focus to open educational practices. Open Education Quality Initiative (OPAL).

Armstrong, J., & Franklin, T. (2008). A review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education (Commissioned paper). London: Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience.

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Open practices: briefing paper. JISC, 2012

Calder, J. (2000). Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 1(1).

Corney, T. (2006). Youth work in schools: Should youth workers also be teachers? Youth Studies Australia, 25(3), 17.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. Athabasca University Press.

Cullen, J., Cullen, C., Hayward, D., & Maes, V. (2009). Good practices for learning 2.0: Promoting inclusion (No. JRC 53578). Joint Research Centre, European Commission.

Hodgkinson-Williams, C. (2010). Benefits and challenges of OER for higher education institutions, OER Workshop for Heads of Commonwealth Universities. Cape Town, South Africa: Commonwealth of Learning (COL).

Hodgkinson-Williams, C., & Gray, E. (2009). Degrees of openness: The emergence of OER at the University of Cape Town. International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology, 5(5), 101–116.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Keegan, D. (1990). Open learning: Concepts and costs, successes and failures. In OLNT’90 Proceedings. Curtin University of Technology, Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology.

Lewis, R. (1992). Approaches to staff development in open learning: The role of a competence framework, Open Learning, November 2011, 20-33.

Mai, R. P. (1978). Open education: From ideology to orthodoxy. Peabody Journal of Education, 55(3), 231–237.

Noddings, N., & Enright, D. S. (1983). The promise of open education. Theory Into Practice, 22(3), 182–189.

19Apr/17

#OER17: personal and political

So many important conversations, so much valuable work, so many new connections made and friendships celebrated. Thanks OER17.

Over the past 11 days or so since OER17 ‘The Politics of Open’ ended, I’ve read as many conference blog posts as possible. There are a remarkable number of interweaving stories and interpretations of the conference, all unique (see the list of OER17 posts). I’ve commented on many blogs but neglected to write my own post… so here I’ll link to some of the posts that have struck a particular chord with me, and add just a few thoughts.

One conversation immediately following the conference has stayed with me. I found myself in lively conversation with co-chairs from four OER Conferences: Martin Weller (OER15), Lorna Campbell (OER16), Josie Fraser (OER17), and Vivien Rolfe (OER18). Each (I think) has been involved since the very first conference. The conversation touched on the fact that each conference has pushed beyond the previous one in a considerable way, and indeed none would have been possible without the previous ones. This is something I have observed since I began attending in 2015, more so than with other conferences — most notably in the engagement with critical approaches to openness. This seems to apply to our work in open education also.

Many OER17 participants have remarked and/or written about the conference focus on criticality, equality, social justice. The conference created space for the personal and the emotional, described in wonderful posts by Sheila MacNeill, Kelly Terrell, Suzan Koseoglu, and Lorna Campbell. OER17 was also a conference of great generosity — in ideas as well as personal interactions. Maha Bali arrived from Cairo bearing gifts, and her keynote mentioned countless others whose words and work she has learned from and built on. She acknowledged and shared these while weaving her own unique story of openness. This generosity continued throughout the conference. Some presenters shared their slides before the conference, inviting feedback (e.g. Frances Bell & Suzan Koseoglu), and noting that comments and feedback helped them to develop their ideas even further. The work of Paulo Freire was referenced by many participants (e.g. see Javiera Atenas & Annalisa Manca) but so was the work of many other activists and educators, quite a few of whom were at the conference. Collectively, we knitted our ideas, publicly and generously, into a broader body of work.

OER17 keynotes: Maha Bali, Diana Arce & Lucy Crompton-Reid – photo by Josie Fraser, via Twitter

The strong and diverse voices of women were notable at the conference — from the 3 brilliant keynote speakers onward. Thank you, Maha Bali, Diana Arce, and Lucy Crompton-Reid. Helen Crump reflected on this in her thoughtful post, Thinking critically about women & care relative to openness. It was intentional that FemEdTech chose OER17 to share their/our collective and nascent ideas for an open network of feminists in edtech and open education, inviting conversation and participation. If you are interested in exploring, please check out current conversations at @femedtech and #femedtech and do get in touch.

All of these conversations move us forward: the tentative, the inviting, the declarative, the challenging. As David Kernohan notes in his brilliant post Roaming Autodidacts and the Neo-Reactionaries: “the will is as important as the tool… the will to collaborate, corroborate and develop”.

Finally, I want to thank all whom I collaborated with before, during, and after the conference.

I’d like to mention many, many more lovely conversations and thought-provoking sessions from OER17. Please check out the OER17 blog posts to explore some of these. These conversations will continue, there is no doubt. I am very grateful to two presentations in particular —  Beck Pitt and the OER Research Hub for illuminating international OEP and Sukaina Walji and ROER4D for exploring OEP in Global South contexts. You have sparked my thinking in new ways and offered exciting possibilities for collaboration. Thank you 🙂

Thanks finally to all OER organisers, keynotes, presenters, and participants. Every voice, every person, was part of creating this special happening. The ripples continue…

Image: OER17 Themes, CC BY 2.0 Beck Pitt

 

22Mar/17

OEP and open pedagogy: #OEGlobal reflections

I recently returned from 10 days in Cape Town, participating in the Open Education Global Conference and GO-GN seminar and working with fellow open education researchers at the Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching at UCT. All were deeply enriching experiences, both personally and professionally, in a place I’ve come to love after two visits in the past year.

For those who may not know, GO-GN is a global network of PhD students working in open education. The annual 2.5-day GO-GN seminar immediately precedes the OE Global conference, but this event is just part of a broader programme and network of mutual support. Chrissi Nerantzi and Martin Weller have written wonderful blog posts about the GO-GN Cape Town experience already; mine will follow. This post is a summary of some my reflections following the 3-day OE Global conference, particularly with respect to OEP and open pedagogy.

OE Global Conference, Cape Town

This was my first time attending #OEGlobal (after several years following online) and it was deeply worthwhile for the scholarship, friendship, and inspiration. The OE Global programme (with links to most presentations) is well worth exploring, as are the #OEGlobal tweets. Educators and researchers from 47 countries across 6 continents participated in the conference. The range and quality of work was stunning. A standout was the ROER4D project comprising 18 evidence-based OER research studies across the Global South with the aim of improving educational policy, practice, and research in developing countries. There were conference presentations by many of the 18 ROER4D studies as well as a report on the project meta-synthesis by Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams: Adoption and impact of OEP and OER in the Global South.

ROER4D researchers at OE Global

Another standout for me was the discussion of work being done by many in the US community college sector to boost college access and completion for underserved and at-risk students through the creation of OER-based or Z-degrees. These efforts and the OER Degree Initiative were discussed in the OER Degrees panel.

A foundational theme of much of the work shared at OE Global was social justice. Many presentations foregrounded social justice as a core value of our work in open education. This began with the opening keynote by Narend Baijnath, continued with the Day Two keynote by Patricia Arinto, and was highlighted in numerous presentations (e.g. by OEPScotland, Preston Davis, Jamison Miller and myselflinks are to relevant slides/presentations). Engaging in these conversations in South Africa, following the recent #FeesMustFall protests, provided a powerful opportunity for each of us to consider our work in the context of calls for free and decolonised education. At the conference, Laura Czerniewicz summarised three aspects of decolonising higher education: recognising how power relations are enacted and instantiated in curricula and policies; foregrounding African/Global South content and contexts; and promoting and engaging in dialogue between different epistemic traditions (Global South & Global North). See also Sukaina Walji’s recent post: A role for open education in the #feesmustfall movement in South African higher education.

As always after such a rich feast of ideas, there are far too many strands to explore fully. However, one is closely related to my PhD research in open educational practices. There was much discussion at the conference about both OEP and open pedagogy. How do these concepts relate to one another? They overlap, but how exactly? There is a great deal of work going on in both #OEP and #openped at the moment, so how might we productively join some of these conversations?

OEP and open pedagogy

For some time now I’ve been paying attention not just to the nature of the work being done by many in the global open education community, but also to differences in emphasis across different sectors and regions. For example, much foundational work in open textbooks is rooted in and continues in North America (e.g. BCcampus Open Textbook project and Z-Degree programmes). More recently, a flourishing movement has emerged around open pedagogy (check out #openped) led by innovative educators such as Robin deRosaKaren CangialosiScott RobisonRajiv JhangianiDavid Wiley, and others.

In the UK, and to a certain extent here in Ireland, there is much work/discussion re: OER, less emphasis (though increasing) on open textbooks, and a deep and growing engagement with OEP and critical approaches to openness. These emphases will feature prominently in the upcoming OER Conference #OER17 ‘The Politics of Open’ (April 5-6), as they already do in projects and networks such as the Open Education Research Hub (who also support GO-GN), ALT’s Open Education SIGOpen ScotlandOEPScotland, and UK OER (the UKOER project officially ended in 2012 but the community continues via #ukoer and @ukoer – thanks to @dkernohan).

With its truly global scope, OE Global provided an opportunity to learn from and about a diverse range of research and researchers. I attended as many OEP and open pedagogy sessions as was possible and spoke with many, many wonderful open scholars. Following the conference, as part of my own research, I searched the conference programme and #OEGlobal tweets for terms related to OEP and open pedagogy. Despite these efforts, it’s likely I have omitted something important. Apologies in advance – and please do add a comment to this post if you wish to add some missing work or a different interpretation. Our work can only improve with multiple perspectives.

OEP and open pedagogy presentations at OE Global

The global scope of OEP work was very clear at the conference. Research explicitly mentioning OEP was shared by researchers from 11 different projects/studies based in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Tasmania, Brazil, Canada, Scotland, and Ireland. A further 3 presentations focused specifically on open pedagogy, from projects based in South Africa, the US, and the Netherlands.

Many of the OEP studies referenced earlier foundational work in open educational practices. These key papers can be considered in three main groups:

i) work emerging from CILT (Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching), University of Cape Town — focusing on 5 dimensions of openness: technical, legal, cultural, pedagogical, financial.

ii) work arising from the Open Education Quality (OPAL) Initiative (2010-11) — espousing a definition of OEP linked closely to open pedagogy: “collaborative practice in which resources are shared by making them openly available, and pedagogical practices are employed which rely on social interaction, knowledge creation, peer-learning, and shared learning practices.”

iii) work arising from the UK OER Programme (2009-2012) — using an expansive definition of OEP including the creation, use and reuse of OER as well as open pedagogies, open learning, open access publishing, and use of open technologies.

In addition, 2 of the 3 open pedagogy presentations (and some OEP presentations, e.g. Gachago, et al.) referenced the 8 attributes of open pedagogy model:

Summary

The above gives an indication of the scope and nature of research shared at the OE Global conference in the areas of OEP and open pedagogy. While it might seem from the summary here that open pedagogy was a minor strand of the conference, the discussion of open pedagogy was not limited to the 3 sessions listed. Open pedagogy is, of course, a key element of OEP. Together, OEP and open pedagogy comprised a main strand of discussion at the conference: in the sessions, in the panel discussions, and in many informal conversations.

For those of us working in open education, myself included, the work shared at OE Global provides a strong basis for discussion, comparison, and potential collaboration. Some important areas which I would like to explore further, in my own research and in collaboration with others, are these:

  • Decentering northern epistemology. With global research funding, production, and dissemination skewed so heavily toward the Global North, it may be easy for many in the North to fail “to see” global inequalities in knowledge production. But see we must. Researchers in the Global North have a collective responsibility to deepen our awareness of epistemic traditions beyond our own, to challenge deeply held assumptions about knowledge and power, to promote and engage in South-North dialogue and collaboration, and much more. As noted by the ROER4D project during the conference, this is particularly important in open education.
  • The relationship between OER and OEP/open pedagogy. A growing number of research studies, across different contexts, reveal an increasingly complex relationship between OER and OEP/open pedagogy. In addition to OER opening the door to OEP/open pedagogy, the reverse may also be the case. This has emerged in my research (in Irish higher education) and in research studies by Czerniewicz, et al. (in South African higher education) and Penny Bentley (in Australian secondary education). I believe these findings are important and may be part of an inflection point in open education. What is emerging in other contexts?
  • Defining OEP and open pedagogy. One of the many benefits of attending OE Global was the opportunity to discuss these challenging questions with many of the people whose work informs and inspires my own. I know, for example, that David Wiley defines open pedagogy very precisely as “the set of teaching and learning practices that are only possible or practical in the context of the free access and 5R permissions characteristic of open educational resources”. My research focuses on how open educational practices emerge in contexts where open education/OER policies do not exist. David and I approach our work from different standpoints, but seek to address similar questions. At the conference, David and I discussed this. We both agreed that open pedagogy is a constituent of OEP. But the door is open for further discussion and work. What else is useful and important in building definitions and frameworks of open pedagogy and OEP?

This work continues.

~~~~~

As a postscript, here are links to the work that I shared at the OE Global conference: “Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of OEP in higher education” paper post-print (IRRODL, in press), presentation, and links to all papers referenced in my presentation.

My sincere thanks to the wonderful OE Global conference chair Glenda Cox, the programme committee and conference organisers, all of the conference presenters and participants, and to my inspiring GO-GN colleagues. Thanks to you all for an amazing week in Cape Town — the scholarship, friendship, music, drumming and dancing. Unforgettable.

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GO-GN Cape Town (almost everyone)

GO-GN at work!

Images: all images CC BY-SA catherinecronin on Flickr

03Mar/17

Open conversations at #OEGlobal & #GO_GN

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Day 1, Cape Town – Flickr CC-BY catherinecronin

I’m currently in the final year of my PhD research study/journey/adventure, planning to submit my dissertation at the end of 2017. Over the next two months, however, I’ll be mixing up my writing time with a few much-needed opportunities to engage with other open education practitioners and researchers – in places slightly more convivial than my usual writing spaces. 🙂

#OEGlobal and #GO_GN

Firstly, I’ve just arrived in Cape Town for the annual Open Education Global Conference and GO_GN workshop. A long-time follower of #OEGlobal, I’m delighted to be able to attend the 3-day conference here on March 8-10. That sponsorship is thanks to the GO-GN network, organized by the OER Hub at the Open University. I’ll join 14 other doctoral researchers in the area of open education for a 3-day #GO_GN workshop immediately preceding the OEGlobal conference. I look forward to meeting and exchanging ideas and feedback with a global group of open researchers – some of whom I already know and others whom I look forward to meeting. Martin, Bea, Rob and Beck promise a busy few days. We are ready!

In preparation for discussions over the next several days, I’ve shared a post-print of a paper based on the first phase of my PhD research study: Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. The paper will be published this year in The International Journal of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. I welcome any feedback and/or suggestions.

#OER17

I’ll also participate in OER17 in London next month, April 5-6th. The theme of the conference, “The Politics of Open”, resonates with many of our collective concerns right now, both within and beyond higher education. The programme contains a wonderful mix of sessions, focusing on issues including access, equity, balancing advocacy and criticality, working within and beyond HE structures, addressing politics at multiple levels, and moving forward in open education. I particularly look forward to the keynotes by Maha Bali, Diana Arce, and Lucy Crompton-Reid. I’ll be participating in a few different sessions. I’ll join Laura Czerniewicz for ‘Critical pragmatism and critical advocacy: Addressing the challenges of openness’, and Caroline Kuhn for a workshop on ‘Using the power of narrative research to illuminate open educational practice’. I’ll also partner with Muireann O’Keeffe and Laura Czerniewicz in a final plenary panel at the end of the conference.

Learning, Assessment, and Reclaim Your Domain

Last but not least, many of us in Galway are looking forward to welcoming Jim Groom on his first visit to Ireland. Jim will facilitate a one-day workshop at NUI Galway on Monday, April 3rd: Student as partner, producer and assessor: Exploring Domain of One’s Own. The workshop is part of a year-long seminar series sponsored by Ireland’s National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. Jim has already blogged about his visit – and I will post again closer to the time. For now though, please check out the workshop description and Eventbrite link and consider making the trip to Galway, or following on Twitter on the day.

And now, first full day in Cape Town, I am off to meet Cheryl Brown, Laura Czerniewicz and many more of the wonderful team at CILT at University of Cape Town. Can’t wait…

Image: Day 1, Cape Town CC-BY catherinecronin

01Nov/16

Exploring OEP at #NextGenDL

Today I’ll be joining educators and researchers from across Ireland (and beyond) at the Next Generation: Digital Learning Research Symposium in Dublin – we’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #NextGenDL. I’m looking forward to meeting scholars and researchers in the areas of digital and networked learning and open education to learn from one another, discuss the merits of different research lenses and methodologies, consider the collective challenges we face, and identify possibilities for future research and collaboration. It will be a privilege and pleasure also to hear keynotes by Sian Bayne, Grainne Conole and Paul Conway.

I’ll present a brief update on my PhD research study Openness and praxis: Exploring open educational practices (OEP) in higher education:

..

This initial phase of my research has focused on how university educators make sense of and make use of open educational practices for teaching. The next phase of the study will explore how both staff and students enact and negotiate their digital identities in the open, networked spaces where they interact with one another. I’ll write a longer post on my preliminary research findings before presenting at the upcoming SRHE event on November 18th – Critical Perspectives on Openness in Higher Education.

I’m shouting out also to the OpenEd16 conference this week (wishing I could be in two places at once!). I’ll be tuning into the #OpenEd16 hashtag and plan to participate in at least one @VConnecting session. May the connections and conversations commence…

P.S. My track record of including *at least* one image in each of my presentations from the wonderful Alan Levine continues. Thanks @cogdog for that amazing sunflower (shared via CC0 on Flickr)… a gorgeous image to use to talk openness, learning, connection and vulnerability.

07Apr/16

Initial thoughts… Exploring OEP in higher education

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CC BY 2.0 woodlewonderworks (Flickr)

The working title of my PhD research study is Exploring open educational practices in higher education. I’m currently at a ‘pausing point’ between phases – so I plan to write a few blog posts to capture my findings and thinking so far and where I’m heading next. This is the first of those posts.

The starting point

I began the PhD journey wanting to find out more about what happens when students and educators meet, interact and learn together in open online spaces, beyond the confines of the classroom and the VLE. As defined by danah boyd, networked publics are simultaneously “spaces and the imagined collectives that emerge as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice”. So what happens when those collectives are comprised of educators, students and others – blogging and using social media tools (e.g. Twitter, Hypothesis, etc.), adapting, creating and sharing OER, learning together, and sharing their learning? As an open educator for some time I had joined my students in such activities and could easily describe my own motives and experiences, and share student work and reflections. But I wanted to learn more. What motivates educators to engage in learning and teaching in open online spaces? Why and how do students respond to and engage with staff (or not) in open online spaces? How do students and staff construct and enact their digital identities in networked publics? What learning happens in those spaces and imagined collectives? What else happens? How can institutions support staff and students engaging in open educational practices? And how are learning, and institutions of learning, being re-imagined as a result?

Translating this to a coherent PhD study took some time. 😉 I divided the research study into two phases. I’m close to finishing the first phase and preparing for the second. In Phase 1 I’m exploring academic staff meaning-making and decision-making regarding why, where, and how they interact with students online; their use of open educational practices; and the construction and negotiation of their professional and digital identities. It has been a privilege to explore these ideas with academic staff, and to develop a greater understanding of the complexities of these processes. In Phase 2 I will explore student perspectives also, i.e. whether, why, and how students engage with academic staff and others in open online spaces, and the construction and negotiation of their digital identities across online spaces and contexts.

The terms ‘openness’ and ‘open education’ describe a wide range of beliefs, practices and initiatives ranging from open admission policies to open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP). The broadest interpretation of open education is OEP. Education researchers across many domains have described and theorised all or some of the practices characterised as open educational practices using a variety of definitions and theoretical frameworks. These include open scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a; Weller, 2011), networked participatory scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b), connected learning (Kumpulainen & Sefton-Green, 2012) and networked learning (Dirckinck-Holmfeld, et al, 2012). All are emergent scholarly practices that espouse combinations of networked participation, sharing and openness. For this research study, I’m using a broad definition of OEP which includes the creation, use and reuse of OER, open access publishing, the use of open technologies, open learning, and open/public pedagogies in teaching practice, with the goal of enabling learners and teachers to share the processes of knowledge creation (Beetham, et al, 2012; Ehlers, 2011).

Following are the main ‘raw’ findings from Phase 1, prior to further analysis and comparison with the literature.

Phase 1: methodology

The empirical setting for the study was one higher education institution (without policies regarding open education). Participants were members of academic staff, defined most broadly as those employed by the university whose responsibilities include teaching – regardless of their terms of employment, i.e. permanent, temporary or no contract; full-time or part-time. I felt it was essential that the voices of permanent as well as precariously-employed staff were included in the study. A constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2014) was used for sampling, interviewing and analysis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 members of academic staff. All 19 participants teach undergraduate students; some also teach postgraduate and adult learning students. None of the participants taught fully online courses; all teaching was face-to-face or blended learning.

Phase 1: interim findings

Among the 19 participants, fewer academic staff used OEP for teaching than for either learning or research. There were three identifiable categories of ‘using OEP for teaching’. In order of decreasing prevalence these were:

  • Choosing to be visible and share resources with students in open online spaces – These academics have open digital identities (e.g. Twitter, blog) and share these with students as a way of exchanging information and/or engaging in conversation. This was often, but not always, accompanied by the use of a module hashtag(s) to curate module-related resources and conversations.
  • Creating learning activities in open online spaces – These academics created open learning activities for students, e.g. inviting or requiring students to use a Twitter account, engaging in live Twitter chats during class, blogging and/or creating courses in open online spaces (e.g. WordPress blog with Creative Commons license).
  • Encouraging students to share their work openly – These academics encouraged students to share their digital media projects, e.g. in a public Facebook group.

Participants who used OEP for teaching described various pedagogical advantages of their open practice. These included students feeling more connected to one another and to their lecturer, students making connections between the course theory/content and what’s happening in the field right now, students sharing their work openly with authentic audiences, and students becoming part of their future professional communities. Many participants also expressed caution regarding the use of OEP for teaching. These included staff who did not use open practices, as well as those who did but who engaged in the practice while reflecting on both its risks and benefits. Participants who expressed caution discussed both pedagogical and practical concerns, e.g. lack of certainty about the pedagogical value of open practices, concern about students’ possible over-use of social media, worries about their own additional workload, concerns about excessive noise in already busy social media streams, and concerns about context collapse, both for themselves and for their students.

Using the constant comparative method of analysis, four interrelated processes were identified as being associated with using OEP for teaching: valuing social learning, balancing privacy and openness, growth mindset re: digital literacies, and challenging role expectations. All four processes were evident for each of the participants who used OEP for teaching. In addition to these, environmental factors operated as enhancers or inhibitors, strengthening or reducing the likelihood that academic staff may use OEP for teaching. Below is a short summary of each of these processes.

Valuing social learning

Many academic staff value social learning. Some participants explicitly identified their teaching philosophy as social constructivist, while others described moving away from lecturing, efforts to encourage more student discussion and engagement, the importance of creating a learning community, and engaging in co-construction of knowledge along with their students. Not all of these participants used OEP in their teaching; many created social learning activities in their classrooms and some also tried to do this within the VLE. While it was clear that all educators in this study who use OEP for teaching valued social learning, the reverse was not necessarily true.

Balancing privacy and openness

Striving for a balance between privacy and openness is a key factor contributing to the use of OEP for teaching. None of the participants said that they did not value privacy. However, those who engaged in OEP for teaching managed to strike a balance between protecting their privacy, to the level that they wished, and seeking to gain the benefits of openness for themselves and their students. Regarding privacy, most participants stated that they make a clear distinction between what is personal and what is professional and also that it is important to maintain a clear staff-student boundary. The definition and management of those boundaries varied widely, however.

Many participants reflected on their personal and professional identities/activities online, with some participants happy to blend the two and others wanting a clear distinction. Some participants, for example, worried about context collapse, i.e. mixing streams of conversations about work, family life, social activities, sports, politics, etc. For those participants who want to distinguish between their personal and professional online activities, the most challenging boundary to manage is often with their immediate colleagues. This was most often expressed as the dilemma: will I accept this friend request from my colleague/work acquaintance on Facebook? Across all participants, there was recognition that personal-professional boundary keeping is an individual decision. Participants who wished to maintain this boundary described various ways of managing it, e.g. use of privacy settings, maintaining different Facebook presences for professional and personal activities, using different tools for different purposes (typically Facebook for private/personal, Twitter for public/professional), or non-use of social media altogether.

Likewise, while many participants spoke of the importance of supporting students, most described the importance of keeping a staff-student divide, both online and offline. This was expressed most often as keeping a professional distance: “I don’t like being too palsy with undergraduates”; “it crosses the line of creating a non-professional relationship”. Participants offered different reasons for not wanting to interact with students outside the bounds of email or the VLE. Online boundary keeping was described either in terms of controlling what students might see (e.g. personal comments, family photos) or controlling what staff themselves might see (e.g. student comments). Again, across all participants, there was recognition that connecting with students on social media is an individual decision: “I have personal rules for that”; “there’s no hard and fast rules”. There was an overwhelming tendency by participants not to connect with students in private online spaces, but in open online spaces only – if at all. This was evident in the number of participants who said they do not friend students in Facebook, although some staff have created Facebook pages/groups (or professional Facebook profiles) to work around this. Twitter, seen as open and public, was considered more acceptable by some as a tool for staff-student interaction. Managing this staff-student boundary, as with the personal-professional boundary, was considered by many participants to be a constant challenge: “you’re negotiating all the time”.

Growth mindset re: digital literacies

Academic staff who value social learning and who balance privacy and openness might be predisposed to using open educational practices for teaching. However, another necessary factor is having digital literacies, or perhaps more specifically, having a growth mindset re: digital literacies. [I am not completely happy with this description at present, but it is a placeholder for now.] Having a growth mindset re: digital literacies includes being aware of a range of digital and open tools; understanding how to use various tools, both technically and pedagogically; keeping abreast of changes in the landscape of digital and open tools; and most importantly, feeling confident about learning and experimenting with new tools and new features. For the participants in this study, this expertise and confidence was often described in connection with peer support and/or professional development, either within or outside the institution (see Enhancers/ Inhibitors below). Having a growth mindset re: digital literacies relates to the previous process: balancing privacy and openness. Staff with highly-developed digital literacies are more likely to have the confidence and skills required to manage privacy settings, negotiate various social media tools, and operate with agency in complex social media ecosystems.

Not all participants with a growth mindset re: digital literacies used OEP for teaching. Some who are proficient users of social media teach their students about social media and digital literacies, yet choose not to connect with students in open online spaces. As one participant described: “I don’t mind if students follow me and if they find stuff that I’ve written online. But I just don’t encourage it as part of the teaching, or their relationship with me as their teacher.” Several participants did not have a growth mindset re: digital literacies – some said they lacked the time or inclination to keep abreast of the rapidly changing landscape of social media and open tools, others used a ‘digital natives’ discourse (Prensky, 2001). The digital natives discourse, i.e. believing that younger rather than older people tend to be experts in using social and digital media, has been discredited (Lanclos, 2016; White & Le Cornu, 2011), yet the narrative continues to resonate with many, including some educators and students. [Much more to say on this – will include in next blog post.]

Challenging role expectations

All participants who used OEP for teaching described various ways that they challenged  expectations of them in their role as lecturers. Many challenged their role as ‘the expert’ — or the sole expert, at least. These participants spoke of being learners as well as teachers and of seeking to create and be part of a community of learners.

“So instead of really only knowing you for 45 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks… at least they think, ‘oh, maybe she actually cares’, or ‘oh, I could actually ask a question if I needed to’. Whereas email, it takes a lot of nerve for a first year to write an email and send it to what they call a professor. They just feel inhibited no matter how nice you are. I think it maybe allows them to feel like you’re more approachable. And if nothing else, that would be good.”

“I do think in order for me to create the conditions that people can learn in, I have to create a community of people here. I have to make sure people are comfortable interacting with each other; I have to make sure they’re comfortable interacting with me. So that idea of a community of learning would underpin my philosophy of teaching.”

Enhancers/inhibitors to using OEP for teaching

In addition to the processes defined above, participants described various environmental enhancers and inhibitors which served to act as lenses to increase or decrease the likelihood that they might choose to use OEP for teaching. Enhancers included institutional support and/or recognition, professional development opportunities (within or outside the institution) and peer support (e.g. personal learning networks or PLNs). Inhibitors included stress or anxiety experienced by individuals, particularly in connection with their institutional roles (e.g. workload, departmental or institutional culture). [Very much more to be said here, particularly in relation to work by Richard Hall on ‘The university as anxiety machine’]

While this first phase of the research study has been focused on academic staff, the next phase of the study will be a smaller study engaging both students and staff to explore why and how they interact in open online spaces and how they enact and negotiate their digital identities in those spaces.

I’ll continue to blog as my thinking develops and analysis proceeds. I hope that this sharing of raw findings and thoughts might spark a few conversations – I’d welcome your feedback.

 

REFERENCES:

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Open practices: Briefing paper. JISC.

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructivist Grounded Theory (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Ehlers, U. (2011). Extending the territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 15(2).

Hall, Richard (2014, March 19). On the University as anxiety machine. Richard Hall’s space. [blog]

Kumpulainen, K. & Sefton-Green, J. (2012). What is connected learning and how to research it? International Journal of Learning and Media, 4(2), 7-18.

Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (Eds.) (2012). Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning (pp. 3-24). New York: Springer.

Lanclos, D. (2016). The death of the digital native: 4 provocations from DigiFest speaker Dr. Donna Lanclos. Jisc.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).

Reed, P. (2013). Hashtags and retweets: Using Twitter to aid community, communication and casual (informal) learning. Research in Learning Technology, 21.

Rolfe, V. (2012). Open educational resources: Staff attitudes and awareness. Research in Learning Technology, 20.

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012a). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2), 766–774.

Veletsianos, G. & Kimmons, R. (2012b). Assumptions and challenges of open scholarship. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning,13(4), 166-189.

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice. Basingstoke: Bloomsbury Academic.

White, D.S. & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

Image source: CC BY 2.0 woodleywonderworks (Flickr)

 

 

09Sep/14

Navigating the Marvellous: Openness in Education #altc

For three days last week I participated in #altc (the Association for Learning Technology Conference) at the University of Warwick — attending in person for the first time after participating virtually for several years. It was a joy to meet so many online friends and colleagues for the first time and to take part in such an inspiring programme of events.

I was very grateful to be asked to give one of the keynotes at the conference. It was an honour to keynote along with Audrey Watters, an educator whose work, integrity, and friendship I value greatly. And a privilege also to speak along with Jeff Haywood. The innovative work being done at (and shared openly by) the University of Edinburgh in the area of online and open learning is important for all of us in higher education.

My keynote was titled Navigating the Marvellous: Openness in Education, drawing on a metaphor from Seamus Heaney. Links to the keynote and related items are included here.

Summary of the keynote [Medium]
Summary of photos, images, tweets [Storify]
Presentation slides [Slideshare] (also shown below)
Video recording [ALT YouTube channel]
Times Higher Education article
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Many thanks also to Bryan Mathers @bryanmmathers, Simon Thomson @digisim, and Sheila MacNeill @sheilmcn for creating several beautiful images during the keynote. These are included below, with links to Bryan’s, Simon’s, and Sheila’s sites. Please check out these sites for other wonderful work, both from #altc and other events.

Finally, thanks to all of the organisers, the co-chairs, the presenters and participants for such a warm welcome and for making ALTC 2014 such an enjoyable and stimulating learning experience. It will stay with me for a long time to come.

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“Catherine Cronin keynote” by Digisim is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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“Education is Changing” by Bryan Mathers (Flickr) is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

“Education is Changing” by Bryan Mathers is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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“The Learning Black Market” by Bryan Mathers is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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“Catherine Cronin #altc 2014 keynote” by Sheila MacNeill is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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